Interesting Beluga Whale Facts

Beluga Whales or Delphinapterus leucas, is a species of whales threatened with extinction. Beluga means “White one” in Russian language and Delphinapterus means “ whale without fins” .Numbering at approximately less than 100,000, these mammalians can be found around the seas of Russia, Canada, Alaska and Greenland mainly. The Beluga whales grow up to about 20 feet in length and 3,500 pounds in weight and it is estimated that they live up to 40 years in the wild.

Born brown or gray, the calves turn white in color when they are about five years old. This is when they would mature sexually as well. The Beluga is a stout yet a very flexible whale with a well-defined neck. Having only a ridge, instead of a dorsal fin, it is believed by whale experts that it’s evolved so that they will keep warm in the freezing Arctic waters and also makes it easier for them to swim underneath the Arctic ice sheets. The whale also has a bulging and rounded forehead, short flippers, and a long fluke, a set of teeth, a blow hole and thick blubber to protect them from the extreme cold as well.

Very much like other whales, the Belugas also use high pitched vocal communication using different types of clicks and whistles. However it is also believed that they are capable of mimicking other species as well. Often they are called “Sea Canaries” because of its exceptional communication abilities. They communicate among the members of family pods that they live in. commonly found as pods of 10-20 family members; the Beluga hunts and migrate together. Consuming a diet of close to about 50 kilos or more of squid, octopus, crustaceans, small fish or worms, Belugas use their echolocation capabilities to locate the pray and its 34 teeth to tear the prey and swallows them whole. While hunting in groups, they tend to dive depths of about 70 feet and stays under water up to about 15-20 minutes at a time. However it is found that they could dive the depths of 400 to 600 meters under water. Belugas tend to hunt in the estuaries and so they are found in the rivers in the Arctic Circle. When they migrate it was observed that they connect with other family pods and sometimes with Bowhead whales forming family groups. This migration takes place so that they could find warmer waters during summer.

The Beluga female gives birth to live calves after a gestation period of 14-15 months. To give birth, the female usually chooses shallow waters like estuaries or shallow warm seas. At birth the calf weighs 100-150 pounds and 4-5 feet on length. The baby is capable of swimming and breathing on its own as soon as it is born. The mother and calf will continue to live together and the calf will be nursed for up to two years. This relationship between the mother and calf is one that continues for a lifetime. It is experts’ opinion that the females would return to the place they were born to give birth to their young.

Killer whales, humans, Polar bears and pollution together contribute to the near extinction of this species of whales. However pods in St.Lawrance, Alaska and Cook Inlet have been identified and been classified as endangered. Mainly the conservation efforts made to stop whaling and at least control it to restricted numbers is one of the major steps taken towards conserving this species. Also the controlling of pollution of the seas is another, which though efforts are made, is not that easily achieved. It would be a great loss if this species is lost forever from this earth. And it is in our duty that the future lives and survival of Belugas rely upon. It is a duty that we should take seriously.